August letters 2004
 
Reed welcomes letters from readers about the contents of the
magazine or the college. Letters must be signed and may be edited for clarity and space. Our email address is reed.magazine@reed.edu.

a short limp away

From Ray Wells ’94

As a former rugby player, I was saddened to hear of the closing of the Eastmoreland hospital, so conveniently located a short limp from the rugby pitch. It always struck me as a very appropriate location for an emergency room. On more than one occasion, I remember teammates and opponents being carried down the hill (actually, I remember limping down the hill myself). Now that Reed owns the property, I hope it makes good use of it, including as much use of the existing buildings as possible. Considering the increasing costs of rent in the neighborhood, it may make sense to convert wards into dorms. The former emergency room might make a good location for a new and expanded student wellness center. The building might also be used as new offices for community safety. Others in the extended Reed community might have other, more creative suggestions.

skewed reporting

From Gerardo Nebbia ’72

I wish to express my outrage over the article “Seeing Mideast Democracy as More than ‘Pie in the Sky,’” by Washington Post staff writer Peter Slevin, in the May 2004 issue of Reed. The article presents a generally a historical, simplistic, and skewed version of the current war on Iraq. It reads as nothing more than a State Department propaganda piece. Revelations that Iraqi prisoners are routinely tortured and sexually assaulted by U.S. and British troops signal that what is going on in Iraq is far from the building of a democratic society. Contrary to the protestations of the U.S. military and the White House, there is plenty of evidence that proves that these acts are part of a deliberate policy to force Iraqis to submit to foreign domination. There is historical continuity that ties the training of SAVAK, the Shah of Iran’s political police, by the CIA; the savage torture developed by the French in Algeria; the Indonesian reign of terror and death in 1965;the “tiger cages” of Vietnam; the torture dungeons of Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay; the death squads of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala; the farming out of prisoners to regimes that routinely practice torture and brutality—like that at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp—with the criminal interrogation methods used at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Given the above facts, anyone who genuinely believes that the aim of the United States intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, or, for that matter, in Haiti, has the most remote connection with promoting democracy is either profoundly naive or has purposely set out to manipulate and deceive, with the intention of covering up and facilitating the work of war criminals. In this regard, Mr. Craner is no Pollyanna. In the future, and as an alternative to the propaganda peddled by Mr. Craner and the State Department, Reed magazine could help raise the level of discourse on this subject by promoting an understanding of the historical roots of the conflict in Iraq and the Middle East.

From Joshua Rahtz ’06

Two articles in the last issue of Reed,“Seeing Mideast Democracy as More than Just a ‘Pie in the Sky,’” and“Life in the Military, Days in Iraq,” were extremely disappointing and problematic. It is unfortunate that while racist speech acts committed on campus are swiftly condemned, racist policies of imperialism and violence are tolerated and apologized for, even lauded, in our official college magazine. Mr. Craner’s wildly fanatical suggestions that the United States has “rebuilt El Salvador,” that it has guided the development of a “functioning democracy” in Central Europe, that it seeks to “invest” [sic] in a project to create democracy in the Middle East, are examples of a euphemistic treatment of the illegal wars against the peoples of those regions, and the truly anti-democratic endeavors that those projects represent. The profile of Larry Doane, a former Reed student who left after his junior year and now leads a platoon in Mosul, likewise partakes in the mythology that U.S. forces are occupying Iraq in order to promote a peaceful transition to democracy. But the article’s jingoistic and reflexive reportage of Mr. Doane’s efforts to “look for terrorists” is even more bizarre and gratuitous. The article offers no explanation of the reasons for “terrorism” in Iraq—it seems to prefer that “terrorism” is merely a figment of nature—nor does it reflect on the right Iraqis have to attack U.S. soldiers who are occupying (and, as we now know, terrorizing) their country. These two articles remind us that racism and violence are as much structural geopolitical phenomena as they are issues of threatening graffiti. Reed should be a forum in which the college, as an institution devoted to critical inquiry, voices critical perspectives—it should not be a simulacrum of Time. Furthermore, there is nothing more embarrassing than the shameful contradiction of the issue’s title, “Rule of the People,” with the profiles contained within it—one of an architect of colonial humanism, and another of a foot soldier carrying out that colonialism through violence.

owen ulph’s legacy

From Robert C. Leonard ’52

Your obituary for Owen Ulph says that “his lectures occasionally strayed from the subject at hand.” That’s about like saying it sometimes rains in Portland in the winter. Ulph was a standout character among a cast of genuine characters. They were more than teachers; they were inspiring models. Readers might like the story of how he was fired from the University of Nevada. He was on a talk radio program and a Nevada rancher called to ask: “Professor Ulph, how can we stop socialism?” Ulph replied: “If you mean we, the Nevada ranchers, we can’t. A year ago we had the best hay crop in years, while other places dried up. We sold our hay over in California for a nice profit. Then last winter we had the worst blizzard in 40 years. Our cattle were starving. So we got the U.S. government to fly over and drop hay to our cows. We can’t stop socialism; we wan tit, but we want it just for ourselves.” He was off the faculty the next day. He also told one story about how he got fired from Montana for telling a class that the Holy Ghost was, “The guy who knocked up the Virgin Mary.” You may not want to print that one.

From Franz Friedrich ’50

I enjoyed Owen Ulph enormously as a teacher and was sorry to read of his death. I had two different classes with him, a Hum conference and a class on European intellectual history. He led us in stimulating discussions of ideas with insight and wit. The remark of his that I’ve not forgotten is that, “Civilization is a thin veneer over human irrationality.” As for the career as a Nevada cowhand, I had no inkling. The knowledge of it leaves me amused and bemused. Such romanticism. It would seem he led a full and rounded life and one hopes to his heart’s satisfaction.

the inimitable lloyd reynolds

 
 

Lloyd Reynolds

From Martin White ’69

I am prompted to write in response to Willard McCarty’s musings on Lloyd Reynolds. To me the dichotomy Willard proposes, “Was Lloyd a guru or a scholar?” seems unhelpful. When I took calligraphy from Lloyd in spring 1969, he was ready to retire and was no longer teaching English literature or art history, his academic subjects. At the time I saw his class as a respite from the rigors of writing a history thesis. In retrospect, I would say it had more effect on my thinking than on my still lamentable handwriting. Lloyd saw calligraphy as grounded in a certain intellectual tradition, that of William Blake, John Ruskin, William Morris, Edward Johnston, and Eric Gill. In that same academic year, Lloyd made another important contribution to Reed. When the Black Studies controversy became a crisis with the occupation of Eliot Hall, the community was polarized. Black students demanded a BSU-run college within a college. Conservative faculty insisted the discussion must wait until stern justice had been meted out to anyone in violation of the honor principle. Lloyd’s prestige on campus made his appearance at a public forum a defining event. Ignoring the terms in which the debate had hitherto been framed, Lloyd advanced the propositions that Reed had room for a black studies program and that creating one was the right thing to do. It seems simple now, but at the time his voice was a beacon of common sense in a sea of sophistry, obfuscation, and ideological frenzy. Lloyd said that to do good work you have to turn off the soap opera. It is easier advice to follow now, when the hormones are less out of control, but is not dangerous at any age.

goodbye, eddie oshins

From Thomas Forstenzer ’65

Eddie Oshins ’66 died late last year, after a forty-year struggle with mental illness so severe that it would have justified a life of treatment, hospitalization, and withdrawal in anyone less brilliant and less courageous. In fact, Eddie is one of Reed’s greatest scientific achievers. In the late seventies, Eddie cracked the mathematical/ physics formulae smuggled out of a Soviet Gulag. Writtenon toilet paper in a virtually unreadable hand and notation, these were Yuri Orlov’s breakthrough insights on “grey logic”: of what happens between the “0” and the “1” in computer language: neither is not or is, but maybe. At the time of his death, Eddie was working on the “quantum physics” of schizophrenia: something that fits in well with his own, brilliant popularization of Orlov’s math as adding the Yin/Yang to cybernetics. Before Orlov, Eddie was one of the few to “stand up” to the “current wisdom” that computers could “think.” Eddie, I think now you can fly free from the fear that never paralyzed you for long and just laugh, as you almost always could.

a very special symposium

From Joseph Bunnett ’42

Reed College won my heart early in my freshman year. In September 1938, classes probably started on Monday, September 19. On Friday, September 30, at the infamous Munich Conference, the prime ministers of France and Britain agreed to let Hitler annex those Czech territories that were predominantly German. It was immediately foreseen that Hitler would soon invade and control all of Czechoslovakia. The Munich Conference alarmed those who wanted to restrain Hitler, including many Reed faculty members. One day soon after, the faculty cancelled all classes and presented a day-long symposium in the chapel in which qualified professors discussed relevant aspects of the situation. Those were talks of a high scholarly quality, obviously organized on short notice. I was impressed by the flexibility of the college in organizing the event so quickly and by the deep concern of the faculty who recognized how grave the Munich agreement was. To me, that was evidence that Reed was a superior institution, an opinion I still hold.

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Reed Magazine August 2004